China to Iowa and Back Again

Being adopted from China and coming to the United States can be tough but Liberty High student Lilia Chalkley, 10, goes back to China to volunteer. Lilia also known as Shu Shu is going to be in China without her parents this summer.


Olivia Davenport, Foundations Reporter

The loud sound of the airplane taking off and landing, the bump of hitting the ground is something Lilia Chalkley experiences when she flies to China to volunteer. Lilia has a strong tie and deep passion for her work in China, as it was once a place she called home. She said with hesitancy. “It is like looking back on myself.”   Now Lilia has made it her mission to help those who are in the same situation she was as a young child: Helping orphans as they wait for forever homes. Lilia Chalkley finds herself excited to go to China and see what it was like to be a child in an orphanage again.

  “Lilia is a very quiet, reserved person,” said her basketball coach, Tom McGrane. This Liberty High individual who is adopted from China is shy, but she loves exploring her roots. Lilia who is also known as Shu Shu visited China last summer to volunteer and to explore the place she was born. Chalkley was only ten months old when she was brought back to the U.S which is now her forever home.  When asking her mom, Patty, when they had decided to bring Shu Shu back to explore her ties to China she said, “We always planned to.” She also added, “We always wanted to take a child back.” Last summer Chalkley got to meet the doctor that took care of her in the orphanage she was a part of. “I couldn’t communicate with him well because I had not been taking mandarin.” Lilia stated, “I got a weird vibe from him,” she also added with indecision.  Lilia’s mom said, “She had some sort of virus.” Chalkley was undernourished and pretty sick because she had been living in a poor orphanage.

One of her favorite things about having the opportunity to go to China is to be able to see what she went through. Lilia said with excitement “I like seeing what it was like when I was a baby.” “It’s like looking back on myself,” Chalkley says with strong emotion. When talking to Patty about her daughter she said: “She is very proud to be from China.”

Lilia will be flying by herself and will meet up with a big group of friends who were also adopted from China. “We are all in the same situation it seems like.” Shu Shu said. When asking Shu Shu’s mom if she was nervous she replied with, “Yeah I am actually.” Chalkley’s mom mentioned that the kids Lilia will be meeting up with are from all over the United States and it’s a great way for Lilia to connect with others. Chalkley is looking forward to going without her parents because there will be more freedom and she can do what she wants with her friends. “We can go shopping if we want,” she said. When asking her what she gets most excited about Lilia thought for a few seconds and replied with some indecision “I feel more connected with my cultural heritage.”  

When Shu Shu was just a baby and brought to the United States her parents bought her a doll where she could press a button and it would say different phrases in Mandarin. Her mom said, “We wanted to try to ease the transition for her.” This led the way for Chalkley to start studying Mandarin. Lilia is currently studying Mandarin at the University of Iowa so she can possibly go to China for undergrad school. “For some of it,” her mom said laughing when I asked what she thought about Shu Shu going to undergrad school in China. “I am in Chinese three I think right now,” said Chalkley. Lilia is really into her cultural heritage and that is what makes her so ecstatic to go back to where she came from. “It’s like seeing my roots grow.” She says with a laugh.

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